At 2:19 pm on Valentine’s Day this year, former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Nikolas Cruz was dropped off outside the school by an Uber taxi. Carrying a duffel bag and a backpack he walked ‘purposefully’ towards Building 12 of the school.
Cruz entered the building, containing 30 classrooms, ordinarily occupied by 900 students and 30 teachers. Armed with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines, he then activated a fire alarm and began firing at students and teachers as they filed out of their classrooms.
He killed 17 people and wounded a further 17 in 6 minutes.
He then left the school among other fleeing students, visited a Subway (sandwich shop) for a soda, and then walked into a McDonalds. He was apprehended by police about 2 miles away from the school ad taken into custody without incident. He has since pleaded ‘not guilty’ to 34 charges.
Numerous people have come out as voices of the anti-gun movement in the wake of this massacre and one of the loudest has been activist and senior student Emma Gonzalez, whom NBC News called ‘one of the most visible activists to emerge from the shooting…’.
She has been at the forefront of the #NeverAgain movement since her impassioned speech shortly after the attack at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Emma’s speech went viral and gained her over a million Twitter followers in less than ten days. In her speech she called out President Donald Trump for accepting millions of dollars from the National Rifle Association during his 2016 presidential campaign.
She also got the crowd shouting ‘We call B.S’, a phrase (we call bullshit) she explained on the Ellen DeGeneres show; ‘I knew I would get my job done properly at that rally if I got people chanting something. And I thought ‘We call B.S.’ has four syllables, that’s good, I’ll use that. I didn’t want to say the actual curse words…this message doesn’t need to be thought of in a negative way at all.’
Since the shooting, Gonzalez has taken on outspoken NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, asking her; ‘Do you believe that it should be harder to obtain the semi-automatic and…the modifications for these weapons to make them fully automatic like bump stocks?’
The pressure put on authorities by Gonzalez and her peers has led to the Florida Legislature this month passing ‘The Douglas High School Public Safety Act’ which raises the minimum age for buying firearms from 18 to 21, establishes waiting periods and background checks, provides a programme for the arming of some teachers and the hiring of school police, bans bump stocks (a device that allows a gun to fire more bullets in less time), and prevents potentially violent or mentally unhealthy people arrested under specific laws from possessing guns.
She has received much criticism from pro-gun supporters including Republican candidate for the Maine House of Representatives, Leslie Gibson who Tweeted that there was ‘nothing about this skinhead lesbian’ that impressed him. He also called fellow outspoken survivor David Hogg ‘a bald-faced liar’. Mr. Gibson has since deleted his Twitter but not before several news outlets captured screenshots of the tweets. Mr. Gibson has also since stood down from the election race.
This month Gonzalez appeared on the front cover of Time Magazine, with fellow activists Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky and Alex Wind, and tomorrow on the 24th March, London will be host to the ‘March for Our Lives’.
The March comes just 10 days after the 17 minute National School Walkout, and this time Londoners can join their voice to the fight against guns in America.
London’s ‘March For Our Lives’ will take place on Saturday, March 24th, at 12 pm outside the US Embassy and according to the petition on the event’s website, the March has three primary goals;
-To pass a law to ban the assault weapons frequently used to carry out mass shootings
-To stop the sale of high-capacity magazines, restricting the amount of ammunition
-To close loopholes in America’s background checks and implement laws that require background checks on every gun purchase, including those that occur online or at gun shows
The ‘March For Our Lives’ has support from high profile figures such as Stella McCartney, Oprah and George and Amal Clooney, who have all donated to the cause. For more information on the March, or to donate yourself, find out more here www.marchforourlives.com.